Louisiana Lafayette Iowa St Football

UL running back Chris Smith celebrates after returning a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown against Iowa State on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, in Ames, Iowa. 

AMES, Iowa — He deserved to be the center of attention.

In the locker room after UL’s historic 31-14 road upset of No. 23-ranked Iowa State on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium, new special teams coach Robby Discher was showing his moves in front of the team.

And why not?


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In his first regular season game on UL’s coaching staff, all Discher’s return units did was deliver two of the biggest plays in the program’s history, nailing down its first road win over a Top 25 team.

“I gave coach Dish a huge shout-out,” UL coach Billy Napier said. “We actually got him to dance in the locker room just now. But you know, both those game-changing plays were well-thought out conceptually.

“We knew exactly what we were doing. Those things were crafted into our plan and the players went and executed them.”

The first one was a 94-yard kickoff return by sophomore speedster Chris Smith with 4:14 left in the first quarter to tie the game at 7.

“On the first kickoff, we were just seeing how everything was fitting,” Smith said. “So on the second one, we saw the backside, that they were coming in hot, playing that little twist game.”

Also spurring on Smith before the long TD return was being challenged by his coaches to ignite his team.

“We started out just a little bit slow and needed to get something going,” Smith said. “(They said), ‘Chris, come on, we need you, we need you.’

“(The Iowa State kickoff team) gave me a chance. They’re not too sure what I can do. Don’t know too much about me. So that was my chance to shine.”

The second big special teams play was turned in by junior cornerback Eric Garror with an 84-yard scoring return.

After getting a few called back by penalties last season, this one was especially sweet for Garror.

“It felt great,” Garror said. “They kept calling mine back last year, so I had to come back … to get my name out there as one of the best punt returners in the country and just keep going from there.”

While the special teams units played a huge role in the win, the offense had its big moment as well.

And it too was a big play when quarterback Levi Lewis connected with sophomore Peter LeBlanc on a 78-yard touchdown pass with 2:02 left in the third quarter to give the Cajuns the lead for good at 17-14.

“My O-line protected me real well, max protection,” Lewis said. “I was happy they even called a shot right there. They were in quarters — it’s really man if you think about it. I had my options. Pete got open. Pete came through with an amazing route.”

The rest of the credit for Saturday’s big upset was the Cajuns’ defense, which limited Iowa State to 145 yards passing and 303 total yards in new defensive coordinator Patrick Toney’s first game as the unit’s head man.

“How about Patrick Toney?” Napier said. “PT is one of the young up-and-comers in this profession. It didn’t take me 20 seconds to call him and offer him the job when Ron (Roberts) left (for Baylor).

“He had a lot to do with our transformation on defense since he arrived here. I’m so proud of him and our entire defensive staff.”

The defense did it by being aggressive on Iowa State’s inexperienced group of wide receivers.

“For the most part, they’re a wholesale zone operation,” Napier said. “When they do play man, they play off. So we felt like they weren’t seeing that in practice a lot, so we walked up and put our hands on them and played tight coverage.

“You saw that throughout the game. I also felt like we affected the quarterback today. We hit him a number of times. He did make a few plays with his feet, but in general we covered him well.”

The Cyclones' Brock Purdy finished the day 16-of-35 passing for 145 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. UL limited the Cyclones to 7-of-16 conversions on third down and 1-of-3 on fourth down.

“We just came in on third down, played man and blitzed them,” Garror said. “The quarterback is good out of the pocket, so we blitzed them and made him hurry up.”

The star of the secondary was junior A.J. Washington, who first batted down a pass on fourth down and then delivered an interception by basically taking the ball out of the hands of a Cyclones’ defender.

“A.J. is just a freak, like I’ve said before to y’all guys,” Garror said. “He’s a freak athlete. He did the same thing last year against Ohio when he took the ball from a guy. That’s my guy. I just love A.J.”

Unfortunately, that interception resulted in a missed field goal. It was one of two missed field goals in the game, but the Cajuns didn’t let it derail their upset.

“The defense had a great day today, but the offense had to capitalize and learn from our mistakes,” Lewis said. “We kept our poise and stayed in there.”

And while the effort wasn’t perfect, the Cajuns didn’t commit a turnover, while forcing two.

And while there may be room for improvement, the details shouldn't really matter.

This was as historical as wins get.


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.